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William Goebel

Gov. William Goebel

  • January 31, 1900 - February 3, 1900
  • Democratic
  • January 4, 1856
  • February 3, 1900
  • Pennsylvania
  • Cincinnati Law School
  • Died in Office


WILLIAM GOEBEL was born in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania on January 4, 1856. After the Civil War, his family moved to Covington, Kentucky, where Goebel attended the public schools. In 1877, he graduated from Cincinnati Law School, and then established a successful legal career, focusing on corporate and railroad law. Goebel entered politics in 1887, serving as a member of the Kentucky State Senate, a position he was reelected to three times. He also served as senate president from 1894 to 1900. In 1895, Goebel was involved in a political dispute that resulted in the death of a local politician; however, murder charges were never brought against Goebel. In 1900, Goebel won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but in the popular election, was narrowly defeated by Republican William Taylor. Citing ballot fraud, the Democratic Party contested the election, thus resulting in death threats against Goebel. On January 30, 1900, Goebel was shot while entering the State House. The following day, the Democratic controlled legislature declared Goebel the winner of the election. As governor, his only act was to call for the militia to disperse from the capitol and for the legislature to reconvene. Three days after being named governor, Goebel passed away. Several men were arrested and charged with his murder, and Taylor, who was implicated in the murder conspiracy, fled the state, avoiding arrest. In 1909, Governor Augustus E. Willson pardoned all that were involved in the assassination plot. Governor William Goebel was buried at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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